Keys, and the Plural of Apocalypse

A Pink Dormouse Production



Anya stormed indignantly from the Magic Box. How dare Xander wait until the world was about to end before he asked her to marry him? A proposal of marriage should be a romantic event, occurring after a suitably expensive candle-lit dinner, and with a suite already booked in the equally expensive hotel all ready for energetic celebratory sex. It should be something carefully planned, with due consideration given to the wording of the question. The storeroom beneath the shop was not at all an ideal location, and Xander's protests of nerves as an excuse for leaving it until then to ask had not rung true somehow. Even though he had had a ring with him: how was she to know if he had been carrying that around for weeks, as he had said, or if he had bought it that day, as a spur-of-the-moment, world-about-to-end gesture?

None of it mattered now though; Anya was going to do what she had always done in the face of an apocalypse. She was going to leave town, and find somewhere else to live. Somewhere safer. Although if the world were about to end, she supposed that would only be delaying matters for her.

Anya's car was parked a block away from the Magic Box. Thanks to Xander there was no time for her to go back to the apartment and pack up everything she owned. This way, though, she would be making a clean break from Sunnydale, and all the people about to die there.

She opened the door, and was about to get in the car, when she realised that her purse was still behind the counter in the Magic Box. While it was good to make a clean break, it was not so good to roll up in a new town with no cash, credit cards, or saleable assets other than the car. Anya pushed down the catch on the inside of the car door, and then slammed it shut. She turned to storm back into the shop, determined that she would accept no arguments from anyone in there. She was leaving town, and that was that.

Having taken two steps away from the car, Anya stopped and turned back around. She returned to it, and looked through the driver's side window. There were her keys, on the seat. Her only set of keys.

Anya tried the door on the driver's side, then walked around and tried the passenger side. Both were well and truly locked. She pulled harder on the door handle, but no way was it budging. Swearing at it had no effect either.

Anya had observed that when people -- men in particular -- were having trouble persuading mechanical devices to function as required they eventually resorted to hitting the offending part with whatever came to hand. The technique rarely worked, but occasionally it worked very well indeed. She removed one of her shoes, and used it to thwack the door handle. The door was still locked, but Anya felt better about her situation. Now that she understood the concept fully, hitting the car again seemed like an excellent idea.

"Anya," Giles said from somewhere behind her. "Why are you hitting your car with a... with a shoe?"

"Because it's locked." Anya hopped, trying to turn around, glare at Giles for interrupting, and replace the shoe on her foot all at the same time. "And my keys are inside," she added, wobbling slightly. She tried another hop, and then pitched forwards.

Giles was somehow there to catch her, wrapping his strong arms around her waist, and holding her while she replaced the offending shoe. 

"Thank you," she said, disentangling herself from him. "But now I need to find some other means of leaving town as soon as possible." She felt a twinge of regret. Anya had once or twice wondered what it would feel like for Giles to be the one holding her, and now there was no time to appreciate the knowledge.

"I assume you're leaving because of Glory," Giles said. "But why not drive?" 

Aggravating man, Anya thought, deciding that while his arms might feel good around her, he did still have the habit of asking questions which had very obvious answers.

"Because my keys are locked in the car, and there's no time to call a locksmith."

"You could always just ask me to retrieve them." Giles smiled, and dug in his pocket. He pulled out a bunch of keys, looked at them thoughtfully, and then placed them in a different pocket. A second search of the first pocket produced another ring, which joined together several chipped or bent keys, and an assortment of other metal items. 

"Now that's more like it," Giles said, more to himself than to Anya. 

She watched as he tried the lock with the various keys and not-keys, making encouraging comments at appropriate intervals. 

"There you go," he said, after not much time at all, and opened the car door.

Anya snatched the keys off the seat before anything else could go wrong. Then she closed the car door, and turned to go fetch her purse from the shop.

"Aren't you going to say thank you?" Giles asked.

Anya stopped, and looked back at him.

He gave her an encouraging smile. 

"Thank you for breaking into my car. It was much appreciated." She started to walk towards the shop again. "But now I have to fetch my purse, so I can leave town before Glory destroys it."

"Anya."

She stopped again.

"Why are you leaving? Why now, when you could have left weeks ago?"

"Because we're all going to die." She turned to look at him again. "I don't want to die. I don't want to watch people I kind of like die. And Xander's an idiot."

"Is that a general 'Xander's an idiot', or a specific one?"

"Both." Anya started to walk towards the shop yet again.

Giles caught up with her, and took hold of her arm.

"Anya." He stopped walking, but kept hold of her arm, so she had to stop too.

"What?" Aggravating man, Anya thought again. She wanted to leave before the dying started, and he was insisting on discussing that for some reason.

"Did Xander do -- no, that's obvious -- what did Xander do to upset you?" Giles sounded as if he wanted to tack a 'this time' onto his question.

"You really want to know?" Anya was getting seriously annoyed with Giles, but noted that she was finding that to be strangely enjoyable. "He asked me to marry him, when he knew that we were all going to die, and so he wouldn't have to go through with it. Maybe he thought I was going to leave, and only did it so I'd stay. Well I'd have stayed anyway, but now I'm leaving." She tried to pull away from Giles.

"Was Xander the only reason you were staying?"

"Yes -- no -- kind of. I had a life here, and not just one that revolved around him, whatever people thought. I had a job also; one that I think I'm quite good at, and you've never complained about my abilities to do it."

Giles was looking at her. It was the exasperated look he always gave her when he was not really angry, but thought that he ought to be. It was an affectionate look, almost as if -

"Oh," Anya said. "Now I'm the idiot, aren't I?"

"Are you?" he asked. "I wouldn't quite say that."

"But I am," she insisted. "I've been devoting all -- well far too much -- of my time and energy to Xander, when he was quite undeserving of it, and me. And you've been here all along."

"Of course I've been here." Giles looked baffled, but not exasperated, which seemed to be an encouraging sign. "Where else would I have been?"

"I suppose you're going to give me reasons why I should stay now," Anya said. "But we're all going to die, no matter what you say. Probably we're all going to die whether we stay here or not. But if I stay here, I'll die sooner."

"You must do what you think is right," Giles said. His hand was still on her arm, which Anya took to be another encouraging sign. "I don't want you to leave, but neither do I want you to die."

"You don't want me to die?" Anya asked. "Or you don't want anyone to die?"

"I'd prefer for the world not to end in the near future," he said. "But I'd rather you not die over and above that." He slid his hand around to her elbow. "We should both go back to the shop. Whether you stay or go, I need to help the others."

"Wait," Anya said, and then kissed him.

"Anya." He sounded surprised, but pleasantly so. He slid his free hand around her waist to rest in the small of her back.

She kissed him again, and this time he was definitely kissing her back. Anya realised that the others might well come looking for them soon, but she decided to risk being discovered, and wrapped her arms around Giles' neck.

Giles tasted of cigarettes and mint, which explained why he had been outside in the first place. He seemed increasingly keen on kissing Anya, which was very promising indeed. He was also very good at it. All in all, it seemed Anya was making the correct choice this time.

"Anya," Giles said, pulling away slightly, but not breaking her grip. "This is hardly going to stop the world ending."

"But you like it. And you like me. That is why you keen repeating my name, isn't it?"

"Well, yes. But -- "

"So what's the problem? The world's going to end, but at least we'll die happy."

"We might still be able to stop the world ending. Glory's a god, but even gods have their weaknesses." He kissed her again. "Surely you'd like many more years of this?"

"Yes, but -- "

"Anya, in the admittedly unlikely event that the world doesn't end, I might well ask you to -- " he paused. "I might ask you to stay in Sunnydale. With me that is. Lord knows what the others will -- "

"I'd say yes," Anya said before they could get into any long tedious discussions. Those would not only waste time they could be spending doing something more enjoyable, but might also mean that there was not enough time in which they could prevent the world ending.

"Ah." He kissed her again. "In that case, I suggest we go inside, and rejoin the others. Then we can make sure that we stop Glory, and I can ask you. Agreed?"

"Agreed." If they all survived, Anya would be honest but fair with Xander. Looking back she could see that they had never really been suited the way that she and Rupert were suited, and she would explain that. Xander would understand, she hoped.

 

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